After 1,121 runs and 17 wickets in the first two innings of an extraordinarily slow-burning contest, the first Test in Abu Dhabi all but exploded into a Technicolor fireworks finish, as England fell agonisingly short of glory following a Twenty20-style run-chase, Cricinfo reported.
In scenes reminiscent of England’s last great Asian heist, at Karachi in 2000-01, a staggering and unscripted Pakistan collapse opened the door for a gallop to the finish in rapidly fading light. The hero of the hour was Adil Rashid, who turned his long-awaited maiden Test wicket into a redemptive five-wicket haul as Pakistan were routed for 173 in 57.5 overs. However, needing 99 for victory in what amounted to an hour’s worth of daylight, England could not quite defy the heavens in their gallant sprint for the line.
Had there been time for Pakistan to bowl their full allocation of 19 overs, the target would have been a breeze for a spirited young line-up featuring many of the men who have revived England’s one-day fortunes this summer. However, despite the best efforts of Joe Root, who hustled 33 from 29 balls, and Jonny Bairstow, who clattered an enormous six over midwicket in a Wahab Riaz over that was dispatched for 17 runs, their rage against the dying of the light left them 25 runs short after an 11-over slog.
Pakistan, inevitably, were in no hurry to get through their overs, but they could hardly be faulted for that. England themselves have used delaying tactics to their advantage in the past, not least during their great escape at Cardiff in the 2009 Ashes, when Bilal Shafayat, the 12th man, earned notoriety for his glove-delivering duties. Ultimately it came down to the umpires to assess the conditions, just as they had done on the previous evening. Fifteen years on from Karachi, and with no Steve Bucknor in the middle to take matters into his own hands, the end of the match was signalled with an apologetic shrug of the shoulders, as Bruce Oxenford and Paul Reiffel called a halt to proceedings at 5.46pm local time, seven minutes before sunset was officially confirmed.
The first hint that something extraordinary was afoot had come in the third over of Pakistan’s second innings. The morning, up to that point, had been following the pattern of the previous four days – England, 569 for 8 overnight, added 29 runs for the loss of Rashid in a ponderous first hour, before Alastair Cook decided enough was enough and declared on 598 for 9. James Anderson, the not-out No.11, appeared oddly peeved at the decision – perhaps he had designs on a last-day century? – but whatever his gripe, he quickly channelled it into another superb spell of new-ball bowling.
With a lead of 75 in the bank, Anderson charged in with all of his tricks on display, grabbing two wickets in five balls to reduce Pakistan to a jittery 3 for 2. Shan Masood was extracted in embarrassing circumstances for the second innings running to complete a miserable match -bowled off the grille on the first day, bowled off an under-edge into the crease on the last – before Shoaib Malik, the first-innings double-centurion, was deceived by a cross-seam bouncer that reared at his throat. Bairstow under the lid accepted a looping chance off the gloves with glee, and little wonder – it had taken 326 balls and 633 balls respectively for either side to double their wickets tally in the first two innings. Now Malik, with scores of 245 and 0, had made it two in 17.
Mohammad Hafeez, on his 35th birthday, showed some enterprise in a counter-attacking 34 from 55 balls, including four fours and, on the stroke of lunch, a straight six off Rashid, who moments earlier had reviewed an appeal for caught behind that could, and maybe should, have ended his wait for that maiden Test scalp. But Rashid would be into the action soon enough. After the interval, Hafeez prodded a legbreak into the covers and set off for a suicidal single. Ben Stokes swooped, turned and blew out his candles at the non-striker’s end. At 47 for 3, England’s interest in the contest was ablaze.
That interest should, by rights, have been snuffed out by the grandees of Pakistan’s middle-order. After a familiarly skittish start, Younis Khan, with 45 from 114 balls, joined forces with Misbah-ul-Haq, who made 51 from 111, to draw the sting of England’s seam attack. There was one moment of fortune for Misbah on 19, who successfully overturned a catch at silly point off Anderson, but their fourth-wicket stand of 66 had taken Pakistan back into the lead, and – at 102 for 3 at tea – apparently out of danger. But then both men took leave of their senses.
The first to succumb was Younis, who had played the spinners with such confidence and aplomb until one stroke too many – a wild swipe into the covers that plopped gently into the hands of Ben Stokes. After 265 deliveries and at a cost of 193 runs, Rashid finally had his breakthrough moment.
Three overs later, he had doubled his tally and halved his Test average, as Asad Shafiq grazed a drive to be caught behind for 6. However, it was Misbah’s rush of blood that really turned four days of bloodless accumulation into a bare-knuckle fight to the finish. For 111 deliveries spanning 32.3 overs, he had been turning in the sort of responsible but glamour-free contribution that has been the hallmark of his time as Pakistan’s captain. But then, inexplicably, he galloped down the wicket to the offspin of Moeen Ali and was bowled through the gate with his head gazing up to the Abu Dhabi skyline.
Pakistan, at that juncture, were six-down for 159 and, with the tail exposed and ripe for the docking, Rashid was primed for his slice of redemption. After Wahab had been snapped up at short leg to give Moeen his second of the innings, Rashid ripped through his variations to claim each of the final three wickets to fall and become the first England leg-spinner since Tommy Greenhough at Lord’s in 1959 to claim five wickets in an innings.
Anderson, one of the best spin-bowling slip fielders in the game, was on hand for each of those last three, quite literally in the case of his outstanding left-handed pluck off Zulfiqar Babar – a dismissal which the third umpire, somewhat surprisingly, upheld in spite of the usual concerns about foreshortening on TV replays. That was the first of two in two balls to wrap up the innings, as Pakistan’s panic spread throughout their ranks.
Faced with a time/runs situation, England prudently shuffled their pack, with Moeen and Buttler sent out to wallop the new ball, and with Root, Stokes and Bairstow all queuing up behind them. Back in the dressing-room, Alastair Cook sat behind the lines like a decorated military commander – with his Victoria Cross already secured for his above-and-beyond endeavours in the first innings, there was no further need for the captain to lead from the front. His example has already been absorbed by an inspired set of cricketers. If Pakistan assumed they had the measure of these visitors, they might need to think again.
Neo Monitoring Report